Book Review

Ann Hood delivers a gift in 'The Book That Matters Most'

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When bestselling author Ann Hood decided to plan a tour for her latest novel, 'The Book That Matters Most', she put the word out on social media. The goal? Visit sixty book groups (either in-person or online) between August 9—when the book is published—and Hood’s own sixtieth birthday on December 9. In two days, she had well over sixty eager responses.

Set in Hood’s own city of Providence, 'The Book That Matters Most' is based on the concept that there is one book in each person’s past that has made a lasting impact, acting as a touchstone throughout their life.

For a second-grade Ann Hood, that book was 'Little Women'. In high school it was 'The Bell Jar' and 'Marjorie Morningstar'. The common thread? Characters who dreamed of a life in the arts. “[These books] helped me imagine the big exciting life of a writer,” explains Hood. “They fueled my imagination and helped me to figure my way in the world.”

For Ava, the main character in 'The Book The Matters Most', books are used to escape the reality of a failed marriage. A year earlier, Ava’s husband left her for a young “yarn bomber” who made a splash by dressing the statue of Roger Williams in winter clothing and covering the Providence Performing Arts Center marquee with cable knit. When Ava is invited to join a local book group, she hopes it will bring solace and companionship.

Hood, an avid knitter, says she became intrigued by the idea of a yarn-bombing character when she read an interview which described the process as “claiming something that is not yours.” Hood says, “It seemed like the perfect metaphor for Ava’s situation.”

Ava’s book group asks each member to present one book that mattered the most to them. Ava chooses 'From Clare to Here', a book that, in childhood, helped her through the loss of both her sister and mother. But there is a mystery surrounding the book. No one can locate any copies and the author seems to have disappeared.

While Ava finds consolation in reading, her daughter finds it in men. Maggie goes AWOL from her studies abroad and follows a crush to Paris. From there, she goes from man to man, seeking connection and eventually descending into opioid addiction.

“I love difficult characters,” says Hood. “And I love tapping into that age [of adolescence] when characters are just ripe to make bad decisions and then seeing how those decisions play out in the fictional world.”

'The Book That Matters Most' is a gift to readers everywhere, making us remember how books have touched us and shaped our lives. With her trademark humor and sensitivity, Hood deftly weaves disparate characters and storylines into one neat package and wraps it with a bow—much like the one pictured on the book jacket.

Ann Hood’s 2016 tour for 'The Book That Matters Most' extends from Maine to Florida, Providence to San Francisco and many points in between. They are not all private book group gatherings. You can catch her locally at Newport Vineyards (sponsored by Island Books) on August 17, Books On the Square in Providence on August 19, and Partners Village Store in Westport on September 25. Visit annhood.us for a complete listing of her appearances.

Laura LaTour is an avid reader, a former bookseller and author-events coordinator, and is currently working as a freelance writer and publicist. Drop her a line, and tell her what you are reading: Laura@LaTourCreations.com.

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